As Mayor Bill de Blasio plans on opening nearly 90 new homeless shelters across the five boroughs to help with New York City’s growing homeless population, two Queens state senators are supporting legislation to give communities more say as to where these shelters should be created.
Bronx State Senator Jeff Klein introduced a bill on Wednesday, March 1, that would require greater transparency of the placement of permanent and temporary homeless shelters, since de Blasio’s “Turning the Tide on Homelessness in New York City” plan currently provides communities with no notification of the placement of temporary shelters and a short 30-day notice before permanent shelters are created.
State Senators Tony Avella of Bayside and Joe Addabbo of Howard Beach both announced their support of the measure, which would give communities 45 days notice prior to the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services hearings on the opening of a permanent shelter, rather than the 30 days given under de Blasio’s plan.
The legislation would also allow local community boards to request public hearings on a shelter site, and the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) would have to modify its proposal based on reasonable concerns from such community hearings.
“Mayor de Blasio has continuously failed to provide communities in New York City with adequate information on the placement of homeless shelters,” said Avella, who is challenging de Blasio in the Democratic mayoral primary. “Residents need know what is going on in their neighborhoods and have a say in the process when they have concerns. This legislation adds accountability to the process and ensures that when any shelter is planned the community members are made aware and it is safe for families staying there.”
When it comes to the placement of temporary shelters, the new proposal would require notification one week from the city’s use of the hotel as a shelter. It would also require the DHS to perform inspections to ensure these sites are safe and free of violations. The Mayor’s Office and DHS must also maintain a publicly available list of these sites.
The legislation also requires a quarterly report from DHS on the use and proposed use of these sites to be submitted to local elected officials
“Good government demands open communication among community members, elected officials, service providers and other stakeholders in the face of difficult challenges, including our efforts to find effective solutions to housing the homeless,” Addabbo said. “If we are to provide the best possible housing and assistance for people who are in desperate need of shelter and services, notifying and working cooperatively with local communities is not only key, but absolutely necessary.”
Since hotels are often used for weather related emergencies, the legislation does allow for 48 hour post placement notification in the event of an emergency situation.